May 12, 2017

National Native American Veterans Memorial to be erected in D.C.

David Vergun
Army News

Gus Palmer, a citizen of the Kiowa nation (left) is a side gunner and Horace Poolaw, also a Kiowa, is the aerial photographer of the B-17 Flying Fortress, shown behind them at MacDill Field, Tampa, Florida, ca. 1944. This photo is in the exhibition “For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw,” on the third floor of the National Museum of the American Indian.

A memorial to Native American veterans will be erected on the outside grounds of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian at the Mall.

The anticipated dedication of the National Native American Veterans Memorial is Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2020, according to Rebecca Trautmann, project manager of the memorial.

Ben Nighthorse Campbell of the Northern Cheyenne nation and Chickasaw Nation Lt. Gov. Jefferson Keel are leading an advisory committee of tribal leaders and veterans in assisting with outreach to Native American nations and tribes and advising on plans for the memorial, Trautmann said.

Also, the advisory committee and the museum are conducting community consultations to seek input and support for the memorial, she added. “Regional events bring together tribal leaders, Native veterans, and community members to gather their insights and advice.” There have been some 30 consultations to date with several more planned this summer.

Trautmann noted that the memorial has received congressional approval and that no federal funding will be used for the project. The project is expected to cost $15 million and donations are being solicited.

Proud heritage
Eileen Maxwell, public affairs director of the museum, said the memorial is fitting because “Native Americans have served in the armed forces in every major military conflict since the Revolutionary War and in greater numbers per capita than any other ethnic group.”

She added that today, the Department of Defense estimates that some 24,000 American Indian and Alaska Native men and women are on active duty, and more than 150,000 veterans self-identify as American Indian or Alaska Native.

New exhibit
In other news, in November the museum opened a new exhibit on the second floor, honoring Native Americans in the nation’s wars, Maxwell said. The exhibit, titled “Patriot Nations: Native Americans in Our Nation’s Armed Forces,” consists of 24 panels that depict achievements of Native Americans in various wars.

Second Lt. Ernest Childers, from the Muscogee Creek nation, receives the Medal of Honor from Lt. Gen. Jacob L. Devers, April 8, 1944, at 5th Army headquarters in Italy. Childers, operating under heavy enemy fire, wiped out two German machine gun nests near Oliveto, Italy, killing enemy snipers and capturing an artillery observer. This photo is one of 24 panels displayed in the “Patriot Nations” exhibit on the second floor of the National Museum of the American Indian.

Several duplicate panels have been made and the museum has been sending these “traveling” exhibits to both Native American and non-Native American communities across the U.S., she said.

Another exhibit, which is temporary and will close Oct. 7, is titled “For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw.” Poolaw, a citizen of the Kiowa nation, was a World War II photographer and many of his photographs are of Native American veterans.

Memorial Day event
On Memorial Day, May 29, at 2 p.m., the museum will host a special public event for those interested in preserving their veteran’s memories. Maxwell said anyone who has military letters, photographs, medals, uniforms and other cherished memorabilia can learn from experts from the museum, as well as experts from the Library of Congress, about how to preserve them.

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